Four Impressive Performers After Week One of the NBA D-League Season

Simon Watts

With the NBA D-League season underway, a number of prospects are now vying for spots on NBA rosters. Collectively, Ron Howard, Micah Downs, Jarvis Varando, and James Mays represent a group of underrated players not yet receiving enough recognition for their hot starts to the season. Find out what they've done well, thus far, below.

Those who pay attention to the NBA D-League often focus on the league's better scorers. However, many of the prospects worthy of earning a call-up to The Association are usually players capable of taking on multiple roles and filling more than one column of the stat-sheet. Here are a few the multitasking players who are putting up great numbers, but are not necessarily receiving the attention their efforts deserve.

Ron Howard - Fort Wayne Mad Ants - G

How does a team stop the best guard in the D-League when he's driving down the baseline? They don't. Instead, they foul him in hopes that he doesn't hit the shot.

At 30 years old, Ron "Mr. Mad Ant" Howard is showing that age really is just a number. Thus far, the guard is averaging 25.5 points, 9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He runs the floor better than any other guard in the league, is deadly in transition, and knows how to draw contact on out of position defenders. In two games, Howard is 26 for 30 from the free-throw line.

During Fort Wayne's recent loss to Maine (117-112), Howard showed his defensive abilities with 4 steals and a blocked shot. His aggressiveness on both ends of floor should be raising some eyebrows, but he has yet to crack the NBA D-League's Top 30 Prospect list.

Micah Downs - Maine Red Claws - F

Downs - a Gonzaga product - is a 6' 8" forward who's played in the NBA Summer League and has spent a few seasons overseas. Most recently, he was an invited to the Boston Celtics' training camp, but was released and later signed by their NBADL affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. In Maine's recent win over Fort Wayne, Downs had a breakout game with 28 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists.

He plays like a shooting guard, yet has the size and ability to play an aggressive, above the rim game. The forward plays hard and is often down the floor in a hurry, which creates many scoring and assist opportunities in transition.

Downs can score from anywhere on the floor, and is unselfish with the ball. His ability to distribute and find open teammates helped the Red Claws build a third quarter lead that the Mad Ants could not overcome.

Jarvis Varnado - Sioux Falls Skyforce - F

Initially overlooked as a top prospect, Jarvis Varnado has gained some serious attention after putting up 11 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots in just 25 minutes of play during the Skyforce's season opening win against Iowa.

Varnado is a defensive specialist and is especially skilled at shot blocking - aided by his 7' 4" wingspan. These numbers are unsurprising, as Varnardo is the all-time NCAA shot block leader. This type of utility play is exactly what many teams are looking for in the D-League. Expect to see Varnado land a call-up in the very near future.

James Mays - Springfield Armor - F

A 23 point and 17 rebound effort by James Mays helped lift the Armor past the Charge in its season opening overtime win. Mays plays like a true power forward who aggressively faces up and attacks defensively.

He plays strong, finishes well at the rim and, pulls down the rebounds on both ends of the floor. The forward has speed and size, which helps him play either on the perimeter or down low, depending on the situation. Double-doubles often lead to call-ups and, it appears that Mays is capable of producing quite a few of them.

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